I have written about migliaccio before and it warrants a revisit, this time adding an autumnal twist of fresh apples.
Migliaccio is one of my all time favourite desserts. Honestly, I could eat the whole thing and it is ALWAYS even more delicious the next day. It is a typical Neapolitan cake made for Carnevale (aka Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day/Carnival/Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras), but really it’s so easy and wonderful that it deserves to be made more often. It is also inexpensive and all the ingredients are easy to find.
I love it. It is sweet, but not too much so, dense and a bit chewy and very moist.
Here is a bit of history. As the word implies, its main ingredient is miglio, which in English, translates to millet, a highly nutritious and wonderful grain. In 18th century Napoli, millet was a grain that was used by the poorer classes, thus, making it part of cucina povera. Today, millet is considered a rarified, fancy thing, but it really is not.
The suffix -accio, is a pejorative in Italian. Why would one ascribe a pejorative to a perfectly delicious food? The richer classes dismissed miglio and anything made of it because, well, poor folks ate it. But eat millet the populace did, luckily for us!
Let’s not forget why people prepared rich, nutritious and fattening dishes before the start of the Lenten period and, particularly, on Carnevale, the last hurrah before the 40 days of privation: during Lent people were meant to eat according to a prescribed set of rules with regularly occurring bread and water fasts. Priests would come ’round and check that you were doing just that. If one did not, one would be in trouble with the priest, and, presumably, with God.
Back to our contemporary kitchens. If you can find millet flour, then great. If not, semolina is the next best thing (and if neither millet nor semolina are available, then just use finely ground cornmeal). Semolina, is “the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat used in making pasta” (Wikipedia). The primary aromas are lemon and oranges, which are in season during Autumn and Winter, and as we all know apples are bountiful in the Autumn so mix them in and you have a perfect autumnal cake. You cannot get more Mediterranean or delicious than this.
This recipe (after photo) is based upon the one my Mum gave me and that I have been using for years. Serves six to eight, at least.
- 1L soy/almond/hemp/oat milk
- 200g semolina (I pick it up at Giacobazzi’s, a specialty Italian shop, and you may find it in any supermarket and even in the little Turkish/Middle Eastern corner shops)
- 300g (or one packet) of firm, silken tofu, drained and mashed with back of fork
- 500g apples of whatever variety you fancy, chopped small or very thinly sliced (I don’t peel them, but you can choose to if that’s your preference)
- 250g sugar (or more if you fancy it sweeter)
- 9 Tablespoons aquafaba or 3 Tablespoons flax meal whisked with 9 Tablespoons water, then refrigerated for a minimum of 15 minutes and up to an hour (flax or aquafaba egg)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 orange peel grated
- 1 lemon peel grated (adding both orange and lemon peel is my addition and I love it. My Mum does not use both types)
Preheat oven at 200C and lightly grease a rectangular baking dish. I use a rectangular 11×9 inch (28x23cm) glass pan, but you can use a slightly smaller size if that is what you have and it will make thicker slices. Do not line it because if you do, you will get the nice, light crust underneath that is very nice.
Cream the aquafaba or flax egg (after following directions above for the flax meal), sugar and vanilla – set aside.
In a large saucepan, warm the milk, silken tofu and grated rinds until boiling.
When it is boiling, take the saucepan off the burner. Quickly pour in the semolina and whisk. Then place the saucepan back onto the burner for a few minutes (3-5 and sometimes even less) until the mixture has thickened significantly. Keep whisking/stirring to eliminate lumps as much as possible. Take the saucepan off the burner.
Now, my Mum passes the mixture through a food mill. That is a bit too much trouble for me and I don’t mind lumps here and there. Instead, immediately after you take the semolina, tofu and soy milk mixture off the burner, use either an immersion blender, a hand mixer or your whisk and some elbow grease to get rid of most of the lumps. Just a quick buzzing should do it.
Next, mix in the creamed sugar and vanilla mixture. Once again, use the hand mixer/immersion blender to get texture right.
Finally, hand mix the apples into the mixture. Fold them in for best results.
Pour the mixture into the cake pan. Cover with aluminium foil. Place in oven for approximately 40 minutes. Then, uncover and let it bake for an additional 20-30 minutes or until the middle has solidified enough so it doesn’t slosh around (test it gently) and the sides and top are golden. Cooking time will depend on your oven. Take it out of the oven, let it cool thoroughly (it will continue to get denser) and serve. If you have used parchment/baking paper, then let it cool sufficiently so it settles, then slide it out onto a cooling rack and peel off the paper. Keeps well for several days if you don’t eat it all before!
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